November 30 - December 2, 2016 NY Hilton Midtown & Member Showrooms

Comfort, Color & the Caribbean: What’s on Tap from Women’s Comfort Brands for Spring ’17

May 10, 2016

Spring ’17 is a mixed bouquet, literally, of inspiration pulled from florals and foliage native to both sweeping countryside vistas and exotic tropical locales. The dueling blooms may be on opposite ends of the color and style spectrum but they come together for a spring season enlivened by color, texture and nature.

At retail this spring, store owners from coast to coast in both the U.S. and Canada have told Sam Spears, president of Ara Shoes North America that there is nothing of significance that is capturing consumers’ imagination. “I can certainly say that the market is oversaturated with ‘normal’ product,” he continued. “The market has become very ‘quiet’ in terms of product.”

The comfort sector is faced with a delicate balance of deliverables—fashion, comfort and fit—that is made even more difficult by a shoe market oversaturated with false claims of comfort, led by the growing number of athleisure brands and collections, and new ways of selling product.

As more and more business is done sight unseen through e-commerce or channels like QVC, Alegria Designer Megan Gold says she makes every pattern with at least two, if not three, adjustable straps. “Most of our customers have foot issues, and I hate leaving anyone out. For Spring ’17, Alegria will be synonymous with adjustability,” she said.

“Comfort as a brand statement is no longer enough,” added Ann Lashendock, Dansko creative director. “Comfort is mandatory, but a brand also needs to be fashionable, relevant and made of the highest quality materials with on-trend styling,” she said.

Dansko Vice President of Sales Kitty Bolinger is seeing a retail trend toward “caution coupled with a desire for freshness and consumer surprise.” She continued, “An item must be so compelling that she will not entertain the idea of delaying the purchase.”

The comfort category is aiming for a turnaround for next spring. “We are very focused on understanding our consumer and ensuring that we have the product range to meet all of her lifestyle needs,” said Vionic Creative Director Amy Egelja. “This has opened up new categories for us to explore, and we’re broadened the assortment to offer her more of what she is looking for all facets of her life.”

Steven Greenstein, Spring Footwear vice president, head of sales, sees new opportunities for color and prints. “We are seeing the consumer taking bold steps to buying color. She is definitely more comfortable wearing bright colors and color blocked shoes with her everyday outfit.” In other words, Greenstein says in the past consumers may have purchased only nude and black shoes where now, consumers won’t think twice to buying sky blue or silver metallic as a new core staple.

For Spring Footwear, that means a Spring ’17 collection that continues to be influenced by the pseudo-Victorian trend, but with an added jolt of color inspired by global prints that Greenstein said can be “found wanderlusting in a local bizarre or while out on a day trip for a picnic in the country side.”

Vionic’s seasonal mood boards include beach and jungle images—a nod to the brand’s Australian roots and laidback lifestyle—and inspiration for the brand’s first collection of flat and wedge espadrilles. “The mix of sun and sand and lush, tropical foliage perfectly captures the mix of neutrals and texture, matte and shine, and seasonal brights that make up the collection,” Egelja described.

“Caribbean beat” is how Hush Puppies describes one of its four core themes for Spring ’17. Hush Puppies Women’s Creative Director Dianne D’Augellli says the concept identifies a new ethnic fusion, pairing saturated shades of pink, plum, coral and blue with weaving and touches of artisanal beading. “It’s all about easy, sunny day style that just feels good,” she quipped.

Emu Australia is feeling summer tropic vibes, too. “Our mood board consists if foliage prints, leafy patterns and shady palm fronds… Our inspiration consists of women on the move, poolside cocktails and tropical getaways,” described Samantha Meredith, Emu Australia global design and product manager.

The brand continues to dig deeper into warm weather footwear, introducing a wrapped contoured memory foam footbed into several styles for additional support. For Spring ’17, styles are spruced up with sun-bleached brights, bold patterns and natural elements like cork detailing, leather stacks and animal skins. A blend of matte and shiny finishes are carried throughout the line which Meredith says will take women “from the beach to the bar.”

Naot is telling a “tropical adventure” story for Spring ’17. Naot Vice President Ayelet Lax Levy described the theme as a story based on “finding balance in an unbalanced world through bursts of vivid color mixed with warm neutrals colors, innovative tribal patterns and interpretations from nature.”

The brand is added twists to core silhouettes by incorporating unexpected color combinations (black with bright blue and vibrant green) and material mixing (leather, nubuck, suede and textile). Lax Levy noted that retailers continue to search for sellable product with interest that is capable of attracting a variety of consumers.

Rockport keys into material mixing with perforations, cutouts, embossed, woven, distressed and glittered metallic, snake prints and patents. Rockport Senior Women’s Product Director Sally Murphy said “texture blocking” is very important for Spring ’17, especially when done on traditional silhouettes.

“The buying trends are definitely influenced by snake, animal and floral prints,” confirmed Spears of Ara. Mixed materials—from high gloss to metallic leathers—have been crucial for the Germany-based brand and its expansion into new markets. Spears says the fashion looks have helped further establish Ara in North America as the modern brand its known as in Europe.

For Spring ’17, Ara is coming back with more, focusing on materials that speak to the “lightness and elegance of the spring season.” According to Ara Product Designer Ralf Schlachter, it is a theme made up of flower prints, snake and animal prints, metallics, kid suede, cutouts and colors inspired by gardening.

Ara’s story is an example of the softer side of Spring ’17, a trend chock-full of fresh pastels and rich earth tones that many comfort brands are using to tell a more modern and quiet spring story.

“We are seeing very cool combinations with pastels being used as the pop color,” said Greenstein. Spring Footwear is combining variations of pink and red hues paired with desert taupes and mauves. In other instances, Greenstein says primary colors are accented with touches of mint and pale blue.

While red, teal and amber dominate the Rockport’s Spring ’17 casual range, Murphy said light pink and blue are key colors in its dress collection, as well as khaki and gray—the lead neutral colors across Rockport’s women’s line. Geometric cutouts and designs, reflective metallic and clean lines deliver a touch of modernity to the collection.

Taupe, tan and white are also Hush Puppies’ neutrals of choice for the season. The colors play into the brand’s “Natural Motion” range of contemporary, sculptural shoes that take on a sport, studio and dance feel. In addition, D’Augelli says the brand is incorporating more elastic to modernize its fits and doubles as a decorative element.

Beautiful grained barn wood, cork, driftwood, aged metals and burnished patina make up Dansko’s Spring ’17 mood board. Lashendock said neutrals like sand and taupe are most important for the season, followed by burnished metallic and textural blacks which she noted “elevate the core black to something quite special.”

The appeal of transitional continues to resonate with both retailers and consumers, and is influencing Spring ’17 silhouettes. The craze of fall ankle boots has made high vamp and high back sandals more popular, Murphy reported. Rockport has these looks covered for Spring ’17 with caged sandals and sandal booties.

Spears sees many retailers buying closer and closer to the season. “With the uncertainty of weather patterns and with a La Nina year predicted, retailers, rightly, are being conservative in their future bookings because they need to react to weather trends which is perfect for a brand like Ara who are a stock house,” he said.

Vionic is picking up new momentum in unexpected areas. “Our business, historically, has been very strong in the sandal category, but we see great potential in transitional footwear, like open-toe booties, casual flats and loafers. Consumers are buying closer to season and that extends certain styles beyond the traditional buying cycle,” Egelja explained.

It has become clear to Hush Puppies that consumers are building their footwear wardrobe with the essentials that transcends seasons, including booties for spring and sandals for fall. D’Augelli added, “Climates can be erratic, and our consumers want to be savvy and prepared. They want to not only look their best, but also feel their best.”

All brands featured in this article are showing at FFANY June 7-9.  To view all exhibiting brands, locations and contact information, visit the Showplanner.

Thank you VAMP and Angela Velasquez, Editorial Director for this special content.


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